There are a lot of new faces on the New York Giants in all three phases of the game but no unit has undergone a bigger transition than the defense. And for one of the leaders of that unit, it may be a process but one that he sees with a big upside for this defensive unit.
Signed two years ago as a free agent, Olivier Vernon now undergoes yet another overhaul of a Giants defense that has struggled for the most part over the past several seasons. The one year that they didn’t struggle, in 2016 when they had the second-best scoring defense in the NFL, was in fact Vernon’s first year with the team. He was part of a reshaping of a defense that spent big including bringing in pricey free agents such as nose tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
Injuries and suspensions decimated the defense last year but this could be a bounce-back season for the Giants. Veterans such as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might be gone this offseason but the team has gotten younger, faster and a bit deeper over the past offseason.
“We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of guys who have been working hard during this offseason. From what I’ve seen out there on the field with those guys, we’ve got a lot of talent, those guys are working hard and they’re hungry,” Vernon said. “So, add that with depth, we’re going to see how it goes, but I’m excited to see with the type of work they’ve been putting in in practice and then going out on game day and trying to show it out there. I feel like they’re doing it, we’re going to have to see game one.”
The Giants defense hasn’t looked too shabby so far this preseason. Under first-year defensive coordinator James Bettcher, they’ve shown signs of acclimating to their new 3-4 defense, a scheme that should give them some versatility.
In particular, the Giants have done a good job in preseason of bottling up the run, limiting opposing offenses and making them largely one-dimensional.
“That’s going to be a telltale sign when we get out there game one against Jacksonville,” Vernon said. “Like I always say, ‘We’re only as good as we’ll make ourselves be’, it’s just a work in progress.”
Last year, the Giants finished the year No. 27 in the league in run defense, giving up 120.8 yards per game.